Derealization and Depersonalization | Caught in a landslide, no escape from fantasy

Derealization and Depersonalization | Caught in a landslide, no escape from fantasy

In the realm of mental health, few conditions are as perplexing and disorienting as derealization and depersonalization.

Imagine feeling as though you're watching your life unfold from the outside, or that the world around you has suddenly become unreal and dreamlike. 

These experiences, though distinct, often co-occur, leading to a diagnosis of DR/DP.

Why Derealization and Depersonalization Go Hand in Hand?

Derealization and depersonalization are often discussed together because they share a common thread of dissociation. 

Both involve a detachment from reality, either from oneself (depersonalization) or from the external world (derealization).

They are often triggered by extreme stress, trauma, or anxiety. They also involve similar neural pathways and brain regions, particularly those related to emotional regulation and sensory processing.

Understanding Depersonalization

Depersonalization is a profound and often unsettling condition characterized by a sense of disconnection from oneself

Common Symptoms of Depersonalization

Depersonalization manifests in several distinct ways, significantly impacting the individual's perception of reality and self:

Feeling of Observing Oneself from Outside the Body

Individuals often report a sensation of watching themselves from a distance, as if they are external observers of their own lives.

This can create a surreal and disconcerting experience, making them feel detached from their own identity.

Feeling Robotic or Not in Control of Actions

Many people describe a sense of being on autopilot, where they feel detached from their actions and movements. This robotic sensation can lead to feelings of helplessness and lack of control over one’s own body.

Distorted Perception of Body Parts

Depersonalization can cause individuals to perceive their body parts as distorted. 

Arms or legs may seem larger or smaller than usual, or they might feel that their head is wrapped in cotton, creating a sensation of disconnection from the physical self.

Emotional or Physical Numbness

A common symptom is a pervasive sense of numbness, both emotionally and physically. Individuals may find it hard to connect with their feelings or react to events around them, leading to a blunted affect and a sense of detachment from reality.

Lack of Emotional Connection to Memories

People with depersonalization often report that their memories feel devoid of emotion. They can recall events but do not feel the associated emotions, making their past seem distant or unreal.

What are the Causes of Depersonalization?

The onset of depersonalization can be triggered by various factors, often intertwined with psychological and environmental influences.

  • Trauma and Extreme Stress: Traumatic events such as physical or emotional abuse, domestic violence, accidents, or witnessing traumatic incidents can lead to depersonalization. These experiences often serve as a coping mechanism to distance oneself from the emotional pain.
  • Connection to Mental Health Disorders: Depersonalization is frequently linked to other mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The overwhelming stress and emotional turmoil associated with these disorders can trigger or exacerbate depersonalization episodes.
  • Neurological and Environmental Factors: Changes in brain function, particularly in areas related to emotional regulation and sensory processing, can contribute to depersonalization. Prolonged stress or high-pressure environments can also play a significant role in its development.

Duration of Depersonalization Episodes

Episodes can last from a few minutes to several months. 

Factors such as the severity of the triggering event, the individual's mental health status, and their coping mechanisms significantly impact the duration.

In some cases, depersonalization can become a chronic condition, with persistent or recurrent episodes over an extended period.

Studies indicate that while some individuals experience temporary relief, others may endure long-lasting symptoms. This variability underscores the need for personalized treatment approaches to effectively manage the condition.

Cannabis and Depersonalization

Cannabis use, particularly strains high in THC, can trigger depersonalization in some users. 

This occurs due to the psychoactive effects of THC, which can alter perception and induce dissociative symptoms.

  • Role of THC and Its Effects on the Brain: THC interacts with the brain's endocannabinoid system, which regulates mood, perception, and cognition. High doses of THC can disrupt normal brain function, leading to feelings of unreality and detachment.
  • Personal Experiences and Clinical Insights: Many individuals who have experienced cannabis-induced depersonalization share their stories on platforms like Reddit, describing sudden onset of symptoms after using cannabis. Clinicians also report cases where patients seek help for depersonalization triggered by cannabis use

Community Experiences: Depersonalization on Reddit

Reddit provides a platform for individuals to share their personal experiences with depersonalization, offering a unique insight into the condition's impact on daily life and mental health.

Examples of User Experiences

Observing from the Outside

One user described their experience of depersonalization during a severe panic attack: "It feels like observing your familiar surroundings, but feeling like a ghost, or looking around in these familiar surroundings through the eyes of a stranger. It's very difficult to put into words, but it's not a pleasant experience".

Comparing Psychedelic Experiences

Another user, who has experienced both depersonalization and psychedelic trips, noted the differences: "I've had mostly positive trips on psychedelics and when high enough I feel this total loss of my sense of self and personality. It's actually very freeing if you just let it happen... When experiencing the effects of DP/DR however I feel very uncomfortable in my own skin. It is as if I do not belong in it and I do not know who I am or who I should be."

Sudden Realization of Existence

A user shared their struggle with sudden realizations that disrupt their sense of normalcy: "It's hard to put into words but it's like a sudden realization that you exist inside a body and everything and everyone around you is real... It can cause a great deal of panic and anxiety."

Alienation and Isolation

Many users report feeling like strangers in familiar environments, contributing to a sense of alienation: "You feel like a stranger to your surroundings. Sort of like an alien to the world you once knew very well. It's a bizarre and very crappy feeling."

Movie Set Analogy

One user likened their experience to being on a movie set: "For me it felt like I was on a movie set all the time or like I was looking at a picture of my surroundings rather than being in them. It's hard for me to explain but it was basically a constant feeling of surrealism and it made me constantly panic."

Personal Stories of Recovery

Personal recovery stories provide hope and motivation. One user recounted their journey: "I had it strongly for a very long time until I learned to manage it. Now, it sort of pops up for a few minutes here and there, but I know I'll be fine."

The Reddit community serves as a vital resource for those grappling with depersonalization, offering empathy, shared experiences, and practical advice. By connecting with others who understand their struggles, individuals can find solace and strategies to cope with this challenging condition.

Depersonalization and Anxiety

The relationship between anxiety and depersonalization is complex, with each condition potentially intensifying the other.

How Anxiety Exacerbates Depersonalization Symptoms

High levels of anxiety can amplify feelings of detachment and unreality, making it harder for individuals to manage their depersonalization symptoms. The constant worry about one's mental state can create a vicious cycle of anxiety and dissociation.

Techniques for Managing Anxiety to Reduce Symptoms

Effective strategies for managing anxiety include mindfulness practices, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and relaxation techniques. These approaches can help reduce the intensity of depersonalization episodes by addressing the underlying anxiety.

Importance of Professional Treatment

Seeking professional help is crucial for managing both anxiety and depersonalization. Therapists can provide tailored treatment plans that address the specific needs of the individual, combining therapy and medication if necessary.

Artistic Expression and Depersonalization

Art can serve as a powerful medium for expressing and coping with depersonalization. Many individuals find solace and understanding through creative activities.

Art allows individuals to externalize their internal experiences, providing a tangible way to explore and communicate their feelings of detachment and unreality. This process can be therapeutic and offer a sense of control over the condition.

Various artists have used their work to depict their experiences with depersonalization. For instance, Norwegian painter Edvard Munch’s famous masterpiece, The Scream, is often interpreted as a visual representation of existential dread and depersonalization.

Exploring Derealization

Derealization is a dissociative condition that profoundly impacts an individual's perception of reality, making the external world seem unreal or distorted

Symptoms of Derealization

Derealization manifests through several distinctive symptoms that can disrupt an individual's sense of reality and connection to their environment.

Feeling that Surroundings Are Not Real

Individuals experiencing derealization often describe their surroundings as dreamlike, foggy, or surreal. Objects may appear distorted, blurry, or lacking in color and depth, creating a pervasive sense that the external world is not real.

Emotional Disconnection from Loved Ones

People with derealization may feel emotionally disconnected from those around them, even loved ones. This can create a barrier to meaningful interaction and support, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Unrealistic Thoughts About Time and Distance

Derealization can also affect one's perception of time and space. 

Recent events may feel like they occurred in the distant past, and distances can seem exaggerated or minimized, further distorting one's sense of reality.

Visual Distortions

Individuals with derealization often experience visual distortions, such as blurriness, changes in color perception, and a lack of depth in objects. These distortions can make the environment seem unfamiliar and surreal.

This can lead to difficulties in work, driving, and social interactions, further exacerbating feelings of isolation and disconnection.

What are the Causes of Derealization?

The causes of derealization are multifaceted, involving a combination of psychological, neurological, and environmental factors.

  • Psychological, Neurological, and Environmental Factors: Derealization is often linked to intense stress, anxiety, and trauma.
    Neurological factors, such as brain function anomalies, particularly in areas related to sensory processing and emotional regulation, also play a crucial role. Environmental factors, such as prolonged stress or high-pressure situations, can trigger or exacerbate symptoms.
  • Connection to Trauma and Stress: Trauma, particularly in early life, is a significant predictor of derealization. 
  • Impact of Neurotransmitter Imbalances: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, can contribute to derealization. These imbalances affect brain regions responsible for mood regulation, perception, and reality testing, leading to feelings of unreality and detachment.

Getting Rid of Derealization

Effective management of derealization often involves a combination of therapeutic strategies, medications, and self-help techniques.

  • Practical Strategies and Therapies: Cognitive-behavioral therapy is commonly used to address the thought patterns that contribute to derealization. CBT helps individuals challenge and change distorted perceptions and develop coping strategies. Another effective therapy is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), particularly for trauma-related derealization.
  • Medications and Psychological Interventions: Medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, can help manage underlying conditions contributing to derealization. These medications can stabilize mood and reduce anxiety, thereby alleviating dissociative symptoms.
  • Grounding Techniques and Mindfulness Exercises: Grounding techniques, such as focusing on physical sensations or engaging in activities that require concentration, can help individuals reconnect with reality. Mindfulness exercises, which emphasize present-moment awareness, can also reduce the intensity of derealization episodes.

Community Experiences: Derealization on Reddit

Common Themes from Reddit Discussions

A recurring theme in Reddit discussions is the difficulty in articulating the experience of derealization. Many users describe feeling as though they are observing their surroundings from a detached perspective, making the world seem surreal or dreamlike. This sensation can be both fascinating and terrifying, depending on the context and individual experience.

Examples of User Experiences

Moments of Realization

One user recounted a moment of derealization while watching their boyfriend: "I was staring at him, when I just started watching what he was doing, questioning why he was doing that specific thing/movement/task, and then talking to myself, saying, 'Wow, this is weird. He is a person. We're people.' It's a very 'trippy' experience."

Existential Awe and Curiosity

Another user shared how these moments make them feel alive: "These moments are very odd to say the least, but I love them and cherish them. It's generally a feeling of awe and amazement about the world and why it is the way it is. Although these moments can sometimes be intense and existentially frightening, I feel that it's these moments that make me feel alive in a real way."

Disconnection and Emotional Numbness

A user described their experience of derealization triggered by lack of sleep: "I feel that I'm kind-of floating around and that I'm not really attached to reality. The world around me doesn't seem like it's really there."

Intense Self-Awareness

Another user detailed how derealization affects their perception: "The rooms seem almost more angular. Specific details of the room jump out to you and seem to assert themselves more than their immediate purpose in your daily routine. Your typical thoughts are replaced with intense self-awareness and a kind of alienation from your surroundings and yourself."

Existential Reflections

Some users described the experience as an existential crisis: "I used to have moments like that all the time. I'd think about how weird it is that I exist, or that anything exists at all. I mean, why isn't there just... nothing? Why our universe?"

OCD and Derealization

Derealization is often comorbid with other mental health conditions, including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

  • Connection Between OCD and Derealization: Individuals with OCD may experience derealization as a result of their intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. The constant anxiety and stress associated with OCD can trigger dissociative symptoms.
  • Managing OCD-Related Derealization: Treatment for OCD-related derealization often involves a combination of exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, CBT, and medication. These approaches help manage OCD symptoms and reduce the occurrence of derealization episodes.
  • Integrated Treatment Approaches: An integrated approach that addresses both OCD and derealization is essential. This may include personalized therapy plans that focus on reducing anxiety, managing intrusive thoughts, and improving overall mental health.

Exploring derealization in detail reveals the complexity of this condition and the significant impact it can have on individuals' lives. By understanding the symptoms, causes, and management strategies, those affected can find ways to cope and seek appropriate support to improve their quality of life.

Depersonalization / Derealization

Understanding the nuances between depersonalization and derealization is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Here is a detailed side-by-side comparison of these two dissociative phenomena:





- Feeling of observing oneself from outside the body

- Feeling that surroundings are not real

- Feeling robotic or not in control of actions

- Emotional disconnection from loved ones

- Distorted perception of body parts

- Distorted perception of surroundings

- Emotional or physical numbness

- Unrealistic thoughts about time and distance

- Lack of emotional connection to memories

- Visual distortions, such as blurriness or changes in color and depth

Causes and Triggers

- Often triggered by trauma, such as abuse or accidents

- Often triggered by intense stress or trauma, similar to depersonalization

- Linked to mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD

- Can also be triggered by anxiety, but more commonly associated with perceptual disturbances

- Neurobiological factors, including brain function anomalies

- Neurobiological factors, particularly those affecting sensory processing

Duration and Episode Characteristics

- Episodes can last from minutes to months

- Episodes can be brief or long-lasting, similar to depersonalization

- Chronic conditions are possible, with persistent symptoms

- Chronic derealization can occur, often influenced by stress levels

- Variability in episode length and intensity

- Episodes can be episodic or continuous

Treatment Options and Coping Strategies

- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

- Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs

- Medications, particularly those addressing underlying anxiety or depression

- Grounding techniques and mindfulness exercises

- Grounding techniques and mindfulness exercises

- Art therapy and creative expression as coping mechanisms

- Sensory-focused therapies to address visual distortions


We Understand You

At 11:11 L.U.C.K, we believe in turning life's hidden struggles into powerful artistic expressions. Our unique fashion concept brings light to the often misunderstood phenomena of derealization and depersonalization (DR/DP)

Our designs aim to capture this duality, fostering empathy and understanding for those living with these conditions.

We understand the challenges you face. Our mission is to provide a positive outlet for expression and to promote awareness of DR/DP. Let's turn your experiences into a force for change, bridging the gap between the surreal and the real.

Join the Movement

Visit 11:11 L.U.C.K. to explore the collection and be part of a movement that recognizes and celebrates the resilience of the human spirit. 

Together, we can raise awareness, foster empathy, and inspire positive change.

Back to blog